IAPA Midyear Meeting 2017

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

March 31 – April 3


Violations of press freedom, freedom of expression, and access to public information continue to occur in large numbers, and assaults on journalists and media outlets continue to go unpunished. This situation was exacerbated in this period by the killing of journalist Igor Padilla Chávez in the city of San Pedro Sula.

Certain laws still on the books in the Penal Code are used to criminalize and punish critical statements about public officials and matters of public interest. Such is the case with criminal laws on calumnia (false accusation of a crime), injuria (insult) and defamation, despite the fact that organizations such as the IAPA, the United Nations and the Organization of American States have recommended that these acts be decriminalized.

Access to public information continues to be restricted by legislation such as the Law on Classification of Public Documents Related to National Security and Defense and the Law on National Intelligence. These laws contain arbitrary provisions that violate the public's right to information, but which have been upheld in multipe rulings by the Honduran Supreme Court.

An amendment to the penal code was recently passed to outlaw any "apology for terrorism" in the media. This amendment constitutes interference with media content and a violation of editorial freedom.

Article 335-B of the Penal Code states that "apology for hate and incitement of terrorist acts ... are committed by anyone who, publicly or through media outlets aimed at the public, expresses apology, praise, or justification of terrorism or of those involved in carrying out terrorism, or who incites others to commit terrorism or the financing of terrorism, and this act shall be punished with four to eight years in prison."

Meanwhile, despite the 2015 passage of the Law on Protection of Human Rights Advocates, Journalists, Communications Professionals, and Officers of Justice, this mechanism has proven inadquate and insufficient. Both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have stated, in the wake of hearings and reports, that enforcement has been deficient due to a failure to allocate human and financial resources.

Reports of harrassment and threats against journalists, especially through social media, have been on the rise.

The most significant developments in the latest six-month period are as follows:

On October 19, a reporting team from Channel 5 (Noticiero TN5) came under gunfire in the city of San Pedro Sula while covering an accident. Journalist Ricardo Matute was injured.

On January 12, journalist Hellen Ramírez was injured with a knife in the city of Danalí, department of El Paraíso. Some of her belongings were also stolen in the incident.

On January 17, journalist Igor Padilla Chávez was shot and killed in the city of San Pedro Sula. This killing remains unpunished, and "secrecy" has been ordered for the investigation.